Friday, April 25, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Soft Target

Terrorists on the scene
With the release of John's latest novel, 'Soft Target', just around the corner (May 17th) the idea of a trailer seemed appropriate. After all, the filming of 'Hunted' was not only fun but sent a quick message to viewers of what the book was all about. So on Saturday the 19th of April, a trailer for 'Soft Target' was shot on location at a nearby middle school in the Victor Valley of Southern California.

The photographer and the mayhem
Director at work

A group of Islamic Terrorists endeavor to repeat the school takeover their counterparts conducted in the small Russian village of Beslan in 2004 where hundreds of innocent youngsters and adults were murdered. This time their target is an American middle school to spread terror and mayhem from misguided beliefs and point out to the citizens of the United States that no one, is safe from the perverted homicidal thoughts they harbor in their black hearts. But they did not count on Yuri Sharikov, an ex-special purposes commander who was there in Beslan and saw the slaughter first hand. It's the one man they wanted to taunt but not face.

Sounds exciting - well, back to the trailer.

A simple task this filming business?

Not so much.
This is how you hold the hostage

Twenty middle school students and numerous adults as extras, two video photographers, a 'behind the scenes' photography professional (Justin Barr), and the students parents. Not at all intimidating for John's first role as 'Director'.

Make-up, director, and more
Acting lessons from a pro
Wrong - very stressful for the author to direct an advertisement for his new novel. Thankfully he had on hand two extremely accomplished and experienced people to guide him through the process. Old friend Terry Kurtz (who had shot the trailer for 'Hunted' back in 2013) and James Fuentez who can read a script and pinpoint where the camera needs to be at every shot with the precision of a drone strike. The novelist breathed easier with these two guys by his side.

Three opinions -- one great shoot!
Fun was had by all with the director yelling directions (that's what they do) and children running in fear for their lives from would-be terrorists.

Running, screaming, more running, more screaming, terrorists barking orders while waving guns (not loaded and triple checked) more terrorists barking orders and more yelling by the director.

It was a blast!

Parents smiling, students believing they are now worthy of a star in Hollywood (not mentioning some of the adults who took part), and finally those wonderful words; "It's a wrap - let's go home."

The trailer's a wrap!
Will the trailer be successful? That's a question only the sales of the novel will answer but from an inside point of view it was certainly a success for all those who participated on that warm and sunny day.

We had fun.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Out of This World!

There are places on this Earth, that at a glance, are nearly impossible to believe exist. This is an incredible creation, this big blue marble hurtling through space and time on which we have the privilege of existing. At J and L, we try to appreciate the things we find in our backyard as well as those around the planet, but these are so incredibly spectacular, we believe you'd enjoy a little virtual planetary exploration as you plan your summer vacations.
Painted Desert, Arizona

First up, take a look at the Painted Desert. Perhaps you've had the opportunity to see the colors, so vivid in the right light in the desert of Arizona. A visit here takes you to another wonder, the Petrified Forest. The existence of these wonders defy conventional understanding, and are worth the drive. But, the painted desert is not one of a kind. There is a location in southeast China where the geologic formations date back to the Cretaceous. We can thank the movement of the Himalayas for the creation of this exotic panorama. Not in my backyard, but spectacular.
Zhangye Danxia Landform – China

So what else would make you put a trip to China on your to-do list? Well, if we leave human history out (there goes the Great Wall, and Tienanmen Square, and on and on), and just go for the nearly other-worldly, then we must look from the desert, to the mountains. High in the Hunan Province, there are sheer mountain formations in the Tianzi which look like they came straight out of the painted backdrops for the film, Avatar. Try building your house here -- if you want to get away from it all. But watch that first step, it is a doozy!
Tianzi Mountains – China
Thinking of a mountain get-away but want something in this hemisphere? How about a veritable island paradise in Mount Roraima, South America.  This mountain peak serves as the border point marker for three countries: Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana. A table-top mountain (meaning, as the name suggests, it is flat on top) sits over two miles above sea level. The geologic formations date back two billion years. Yup, two billion with a "b" -- Precambrian. Back when your only neighbors would have been soft, single celled creatures. Quiet neighborhood, I should imagine -- perfect get-away.
Mount Roraima – South America
Okay, so heights are not your thing -- how about something more down to earth, or rather, below the surface. This Naico Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico has the largest formations of selenite crystals, more commonly known as gypsum, which can be found on this old Earth of ours. The crystals can be four feet in diameter and fifty feet tall.
Naico Mine – Mexico
Now again, for comparison and reference, there is a large deposit of these crystals in the desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico. But here, the crystals are the size of a grain of sand, and are, in fact, referred to as White Sands. Beautiful, but it begs the question of whether size matters when comparing such things.

White Sands - New Mexico
So, you still haven't decided where to plan your next vacation?  How about a trip to the lake? Lake Hillier, in Australia, or Lake Retba, in Sengal offer water the color of which is sure to please the little princess in your family. These waterways are perfectly safe to play in and around, despite their unsettlingly pink color. There is believed to be a combination of an unusual strain of red halophilic bacteria and high saline content. The locals will fish and swim in the lake, but I think I'd stick to just putting my feet in near shore where the water is clear.
Lake Hillier – Australia
Looking for something to cool off from the summer heat? How about the Mendenhall Ice Caves in Alaska? Just a dozen miles from Juneau, this formation, at the terminus of the glacier is the perfect place to take break from the summer heat!

Mendenhall Ice Caves – Alaska
All right, so maybe none of these places are your style or within your vacation budget, but there remains one last place that we at J and L have definitely put on our list: the Black Forest in Germany. Bordered by the Rhine, and encompassing the Danube, the history and beauty of this region is unparalleled. To lie on your sleeping bag in your tent in the dark, listening to the creatures of the forest, is to travel back in time and experience nature as man has for hundreds, even thousands of years. As the wolves howl, one can almost hear the echo of the footsteps of Vlad Tepesh as he searches along the banks of the Danube for his lost princess.
Black Forest – Germany
Wherever life takes you this summer, we at J and L know you will have stories and photographs to share with those close to you.